Author Archive: Brian Sanchez

Call for reforms as more law students fail their bar exam

By OUMA WANZALA
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A report has laid bare the massive failure of law students seeking to be admitted as advocates of the High Court of Kenya between 2009 to 2016.

Out of 16,086 students who sat for the Bar examinations administered by Council of Legal Education (CLE), only 7,530 passed while 8,549 failed, which translates to 53 per cent failure.

The report by a taskforce on legal sector reforms that was chaired by prominent lawyer Fred Ojiambo, is set to be discussed by stakeholders at a major conference in Mombasa that started Monday and will run until January 18.

The conference is being attended by representatives of universities, CLE and other players in the legal profession. The taskforce was set up by the Attorney General in September 2016 to look at the training of legal professions in the country.

The report points out that 5,298 students, who failed bar exams are actively involved in employment in law firms, county governments, universities, among others sectors.

About 47 of the students are in law firms; county governments have employed 10 per cent of them, others work in the Judiciary, parastatals , office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, academics  among other fields.

About 53 students who failed their examination in 2009; 62 in 2010; 324 in 2011; 595 in 2012; 1,113 in 2013 are still in the system hoping to pass the exams in subsequent attempts. For 2013, students who failed but are still in the system are 1,365; 1,786 for 2015; while 2016 has the highest number of failures at 3,251.

For instance in 2016, only 1,009 students passed the Bar exams while 3251 failed.

The report indicates that candidates who failed the examination had obtained their undergraduate degrees in some of the local universities.

Kenyatta University leads with 30 per cent, Moi University is at 22 per cent, University of Nairobi Parkland Campus (20 per cent), Catholic University of Eastern Africa (8) and Kabarak University (6).

Others are University of Nairobi Mombasa Campus (5), Nazerene University (2), Mount Kenya University (4) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (2).

“Unfortunately, while the number of graduates has increased, there have been concerns about deterioration in the quality, professional capacity, and competence of these graduates as they transition into practitioners.

This decline has in turn been attributed to the decline in quality and standards of training and apprenticeship.”

On average, there was  a 21 per cent increase per annum in the enrolment of students into Bar programme between 2009 and 2016.

“There is a relationship between the increased enrolment and fail rate. As the number of students enrolled in the LL.B programme increases, the failure rate similarly increases,” adds the report.

The taskforce now wants an exit avenue to be provided to students who are still in the system such as paralegals.

“This is partly because of heavy investment already spent on these persons.

“The other avenue is to urge the council to vigorously enforce quality standards, facilities and resources at legal education providers to improve the quality of training which will, in turn, improve pass rates at the law schools and during  advocates training programmes.”

The taskforce now wants the 8,549 candidates to be identified and profiled by the CLE.

The taskforce also want a limit on number of attempts at the bar examination.

Currently Bar examination candidates are permitted to attempt the examination within 5 years.

Upon exhausting the maximum number of attempts, an applicant may be permitted  to attempt the Bar examination within a further five years subject however, to the candidate being re-admitted  to the advocates training programme afresh as the curriculum for the first 5 years will have to run its course.

The task of the team was to evaluate, review, and make recommendations on – suitability and quality of legal education and professional legal training curriculum, standards, entry qualification criteria and delivery systems.

Other terms of reference was legal sector practice, licensing and membership process, institutional structure criteria and participation mechanism.

Members of the taskforce were the chairperson of Kenya Law Reform Commission Mr Mbage Nganga, outgoing Director for Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Ann Amadi, chairperson of Advocates Complaint Commission Beauttah Siganga, Law Society of Kenya president Isaac Okero among others.

Law Ruler Brings Powerful New Features to the New Version of…

Biggest Software Release Ever for Law Ruler with a New Impressive Look Just One Among Hundreds of Changes.

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (PRWEB) January 15, 2018

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For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2018/01/prweb15086994.htm


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VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne kicks off 2018 with swearing-in of two attorneys at law

KunnemanWILLEMSTAD – With the swearing-in of Saul Castaño Ortiz and Joël Felida on Tuesday 9 January 2018, the Curaçao office of VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne has added two sworn attorneys to its team. Both junior associates have started working at the firm’s Corporate & Banking section.

Saul Castaño Ortiz was born and raised in Colombia. At twenty years old he moved to the Netherlands, where he obtained master’s degrees in both financial law and business law at Leiden University. He also did internships at several large law firms, including Baker McKenzie Amsterdam and Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn. His choice to start his career as an attorney at law in Curaçao is no coincidence: “Here I can use and further develop both my Latin American roots and the knowledge and experience that I have gained during my years of study in the Netherlands. I’m therefore very pleased that I have now been sworn in and that my career as an attorney at law has officially started.”

Joël Felida is yu di Korsou and after obtaining master’s degrees in both civil law and financial law he returned to his roots to work at VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne as an attorney at law. Commenting on the swearing-in ceremony, Joël said: “Taking the oath was a special moment. This is what I have been working towards in recent years. From an early age I dreamed of becoming an attorney, preferably in Curaçao. I’m very happy that I have been able to make this dream come through so soon after completing my studies.”

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Many small and medium-sized American businesses can’t compete with non-U.S. firms

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With the sixth round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations set to begin in Canada later this month, news reports claim that Canadian negotiators are increasingly worried that the U.S. may unilaterally quit the agreement — something that President Trump can do with the stroke of a pen.

If NAFTA 2.0 negotiations fail, it may not be due to issues involving the U.S./Mexican trade deficit, which receive a great deal of popular attention. Instead, the culprit may be a little-publicized but important aspect of trade that has placed many small and medium-sized American businesses at a disadvantage with Canadian businesses when it comes to government contracts.

Earlier in 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that cited more than $800 billion in U.S. procurement contracts available for foreign firms. Another way to look at that is $800 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars going to foreign businesses. This far outpaced U.S. companies’ access to international governments’ procurement opportunities.

Most people would assume that the Buy America Act — a law that’s been around for nine decades, and which is supposed to encourage the U.S. government to buy from American companies — would preclude non-U.S. firms from competing for federal government contracts. But, the law has so softened from its original intent that any parity that previously existed is gone.

The U.S., along with 57 other countries, participate in a World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) that allows foreign companies to compete for government contracts. GAO cited that the “United States reported opening a greater percentage of its government procurement to foreign competition than the next five largest trade agreement partners combined.”

The spirit of the agreement is to ensure “fair and open competition on a reciprocal basis,” but the dollar value of the procurement opportunities made available by the U.S. to foreign firms is nearly double what the other five largest partners combined make accessible to American companies. The chart below illustrates the scope of this imbalance.

NAFTA requires the trade partners to exchange procurement data annually, and while Canada is a country that greatly benefits from our covered procurements, GAO found that information on government contracting has not been shared since 2005.

Since NAFTA’s enactment in 1994, industries in all three countries have counted on stable supply chains that are based on the framework of NAFTA. Within that framework, US trade with Canada is worth more than $629 billion with Canada and $579 billion with Mexico. Changes to this framework could affect agriculture, auto and textile manufacturers, among many others.

Whatever happens with NAFTA, it should be noted that the administration is not working in a vacuum. Since his confirmation in May, the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, has been leading the U.S. effort, and the release of November Objectives Update clearly outlined the path forward. In addition, Mr. Lighthizer reports that he and his team have spent more than 700 hours discussing NAFTA with members of Congress and their staff “just since August,” and the Federal Register notice to gather input on negotiating objectives published in May 2017 drew more than 12,000 comments.

Mr. Trump has been clear on his view on trade, emphasizing that aspects of NAFTA that place American businesses at a disadvantage with our North American trading partners must be changed. And one area where American companies seem to face a disadvantage is when it comes to doing business with their own government.

Emily Baker serves on the board of advisers for Tsamoutales Strategies, is the founder and managing partner of Portman Square Group Communications and an adjunct professor at Boise State University. She led the General Services Administration Northeast and Caribbean region under President Bush.

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Collapse of Carillion could harm hundreds of firms

The collapse of Carillion has prompted fierce criticism of the Government over its awarding of hundreds of contracts to the firm, with many business leaders warning of dire knock on effects to small firms in the fallen giant’s supply chain.

Simon Revington, analyst at City Index, said it was “more than surprising, possibly even negligent” that the UK government continued to dish out contracts to Carillion even though their future has looked uncertain for some time.

“Over £2 billion worth of government contracts were handed to Carillion during the time that the firm gave three profit warnings,” he said.

“As a result of the compulsory liquidation thousands of jobs as risk and potentially public services could be impacted. This is yet another huge embarrassment for the UK government, which appears to be moving from mishap to mishap.

“The very fact that Carillion have gone into liquidation rather than administration scream volumes over the state of the financials at the firm; there were no assets to sell so no administration.”

Keith Loudon, chairman at Yorkshire stockbroker Redmayne Bentley, said: “We never learn the age-old adage that says: ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’!

“This is true for national and international businesses, local and national government organisations.

“One of the maxims of modern investing is ‘diversity.’”

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “Carillion’s liquidation is terrible news for all those who work for the company and it will have serious knock-on effects for the many smaller firms in its supply chain, some of which will be in serious financial danger as a result of Carillion’s demise.”

Richard Piper, head of the construction team at Yorkshire law firm Gordons, said: “There is a suspicion that Carillion was under-pricing its services to win tenders, which although successful, can ultimately impact negatively on profitability.”

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Backed by NRI demand, some realty firms stick to luxury projects

In 2017, most developers refrained from launching projects and focused on selling existing stock. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

In 2017, most developers refrained from launching projects and focused on selling existing stock. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Bengaluru: In the middle of a real estate slowdown when most builders have turned to affordable housing projects, some continue to bet on luxury homes, backed by demand from ultra-rich buyers and non-resident Indians (NRI). 

A handful of established, well-capitalized developers in Mumbai, the National Capital Region (NCR), Bengaluru and Pune are focusing on such projects, while the majority stick to mid-income or affordable homes. 

After zero launches in 2017, Mumbai’s K. Raheja Corp. has two luxury project launches planned this year in south-central Mumbai, one of the most expensive micro-markets in the country. 

“Homes at Rs15-25 crore and above are for high-value consumers, who are risk-averse, conscious of what they are buying, believe in investing equity (not debt) and prefer homes that are closer to possession. We saw good sales even last year, with prices in Vivarea in south Mumbai up by 20% or so compared to two years back,” said Vinod Rohira, managing director, (commercial real estate and REIT), K. Raheja Corp.

India’s largest developer DLF Ltd resumed sales on 1 November,  six months after it hit pause as a measure of caution in view of the roll out of the new real estate law.

In November and December, DLF clocked around Rs450 crore of sales in its two Gurugram projects—Camellias (homes priced at Rs28-32 crore) and Crest (Rs6-8 crore).

DLF chief executive Rajeev Talwar said the November-December period was “an exceptional period of sales”. “Customers have gone around and checked out projects. Though we sell at a premium, we have seen people showing interest and conversion to hard sales. Luxury homes will be for actual users now, those who have accomplished and are buying for themselves,” Talwar said. 

In 2017, most developers refrained from launching projects and focused on selling existing stock, more so in the premium end of the market. According to 31 December data from property advisory Cushman and Wakefield, launch of luxury units was down by 70% to 331 units last year, from 1,112 units in 2016. 

“The luxury housing segment, for which demand is end-user driven, is witnessing robust growth owing to HNIs (high net-worth individuals) and increasing customer aspirations for a luxurious lifestyle. Such an increased customer appetite works well for our business which aspires to build properties that represent world-class standards of design, construction and quality,” said Anand Piramal, executive director of Piramal Group and founder, Piramal Realty.

Radius Developers, which focused on existing projects last year, has two launches coming up in Mumbai, priced at Rs12-14 crore. Pune’s Panchshil Realty will launch an 80-acre project with 168 luxury villas.   

Lodha Group plans to launch 3-4 new luxury and high-end projects in Mumbai at Walkeshwar, Lower Parel and Parel. It may also launch a new townhouse development in Pune.

“Luxury real estate is finally coming of age. Genuine luxury offerings have always found buyers who place utmost importance on aspects like quality, craftsmanship, lifestyle and service standards. Our Lodha Luxury Collection (LLC) does not just score well, it also defines the benchmark for the industry on these parameters,” said a Lodha spokesperson.  

Last year, Lodha launched the third tower in The World Towers project in Mumbai and One Grosvenor Square at Mayfair, in London’s West End. It clocked early sales at the London project at around £6,000 per sq. ft. (Rs5 lakh per sq. ft). The firm expects greater traction from its London project, with a weaker pound helping the cause of Indian buyers.

Bengaluru-based Total Environment Building Systems Pvt. Ltd, a prominent developer of luxury and high-quality homes, will launch projects in Pune and Bengaluru this year. Kamal Sagar, principal architect and chief executive, said if developers build beautifully designed homes and customers look at them as buying a home and not just an investment, it works well. “The market has been slow but our approach is customer-centric and customization in projects, which gives us a differential edge,” Sagar said. 

“Developers with the financial bandwidth and potential to build luxury projects have sustained the slowdown. Prices in this segment have also not come down, especially in prominent projects in Mumbai, NCR and Bangalore,” said Raja Seetharaman, co-founder of Propstack, a real estate data analytics and solutions firm. 

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Some Law Firms Ditch Traditional Model

Attorney Brian Dirkmaat likens the adventure many of his entrepreneurial clients have undertaken to surfing for the grit and perseverance that is required to succeed. He launched a solo practice in late 2017 to work more closely with entrepreneurs in San Diego’s growing startup community and elsewhere.

Attorney Brian Dirkmaat likens the adventure many of his entrepreneurial clients have undertaken to surfing for the grit and perseverance that is required to succeed. He launched a solo practice in late 2017 to work more closely with entrepreneurs in San Diego’s growing startup community and elsewhere.

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle.

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UAE law firm Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla launches tax practice

One of the UAE’s leading law firms has responded to the new tax environment in the country by launching a dedicated tax practice.

Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla has recruited Reggie Mezu, an international tax counsel with nearly 30 years’ experience in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, to head up the new practice in the UAE as Senior Special Counsel.

Andrew Mackenzie, specialist in international arbitration law, with a particular focus on construction, engineering, energy and insurance disputes, also joins the firm as Partner in its UAE Arbitration practice.

These appointments come on the back of the promotion of Tarek Saad to partner in the UAE Dispute Resolution practice and the hire of UAE Financial Services Regulatory partner Matthew Shanahan. The total number of partners based in the UAE is now 19.

“We are delighted to have Andrew Mackenzie and Reggie Mezu join us to further support our clients operating in the Middle East through the life cycle of their operations, from structuring and advisory to dispute resolution,” commented Dr Habib Al Mulla, executive chairman of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla.

“Our continuous growth in the UAE is driven by our commitment to helping our clients achieve their objectives, particularly against the backdrop of the global geopolitical environment and the economic reforms taking place in the region.”

Andrew Mackenzie joins Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla from UAE firm Hogan Lovells. He has been based in the country for more than eight years and has full rights of audience in the Dubai International Financial Centre courts.

Reggie Mezu, also UK trained, had already been working with Baker McKenzie to advise clients on tax planning, the new VAT regime, corporate structuring, cross-border transactions, double tax treaties, reform and development of fiscal frameworks. He joins from leading tax advisory firm Cragus Group.

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Why Magarini residents are at the mercy of Kilifi’s salt firms

Magarini MP inspects contaminated well. Thirty fresh water wells in the village near Indian Ocean have been abandoned due to contamination by seepage from nearby salt manufacturing activity. [Photo by Joackim Bwana/Standard]

One early morning, armed police stormed Msumarini village in Adu Ward to enforce a state decree on eviction of residents.

The government had allocated the land to a private investor in salt manufacturing.

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Karisa Ngumbao Thoya, 64, who was among villagers forcefully evicted now lives as a squatter in Muyu wa Kaya village next to the Indian Ocean, about 2km from Msumarini.

“We were treated like cattle and asked to leave,” Karisa says.

He claims during the eviction in 1987, police and state officials chaperoning the new investor informed them that they were squatters on private land. The compensation the residents received left a lot to be desired.

“The only compensation we received was Sh40 for every coconut tree. In total I received money for 15 trees,” he claims adding that other crops and houses were not legible for compensation.

This account is difficult to verify in an area where investors and residents often weave tales to suit their situation.

What is not in doubt however is that the residents are now squatters reliving the torment of past evictions.

“Now we have been asked to move again,” said Karisa as he pointed to charred coconut trees he claimed to have owned decades ago.

The squatters accuse the salt firms of contaminating wells at Muyu wa Kaya, through releasing seepage into the water.

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Some residents even believe salt was dumped into the wells to compel them vacate the area.

“The wells became salty gradually until residents abandoned them,” says local MCA for Adu Ward Stanley Karisa who claims the contamination of wells at Muyu wa Kaya “began about ten years ago until residents ran out of fresh water sources.

He claims that 30 fresh water wells in Adu ward were abandoned because of contamination and residents now rely on fresh water supplied at a fee by trucks or carts. The water is sought from Kadzandani, Gongoni and Kambicha which are more than 20km away.

Women harvest Salt at the Salt mine in Magarini, Kilifi County. The harvesting of salt has become a health problem to most residents living in Magarini. [Photo by Kelvin Karani/Standard]

The Sunday Standard team came across large swathes of abandoned farms while some schools are being built illegally by enterprising squatters.

There are more than six salt manufacturing firms in Magarini constituency, including Al Sherman whose majority shareholder is Malindi Salt.

The squatters appear trapped between the demands of daily life that compel them to seek employment in the much vilified firms, opposition to the investors and the vicious cycle of poverty.

At a charged rally at Msumarini, Magarini MP Michael Kingi declared that residents do not benefit from the firms.

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“Salt firms have been here for decades but local residents have not benefited from them. The hazards exceed the benefits,” he says and cites the eviction of local residents without alternative settlement.

He claims that the national government awarded large swatches of land to each firm and after 2011 they encroached on the available land.

“This piece of land is too big for salt mining,” says Kingi adding that “some investors were allocated land many years ago but have never mined a grain of salt.”

The MP further claims some investors use land allocated for speculative purposes. He claims that salt firms only offer menial jobs to residents when they come under pressure.

We established that Al Sherman Limited owns about five salt firms in the area including the villages now under threat. Officials released documents showing that the firm was allocated 1,000 hectares in Fundisa area on January 1, 1986 for a 45 year lease, 175 hectares for 99 years at Gongoni on December 1, 2010.

The firm was also allocated 1021.9 hectares in a separate location on a 99 year lease, another 459 hectares on August 1, 1990 for 99 years.

On December 9, 1997 Al Sherman was allocated 438.9 hectares on a 99 year lease.

Suhel Ali, the project manager at Al Sherman told Sunday Standard that no investor can sink billions of shillings into land they have no legal entitlement to.

“We are always complying with the law,” he says adding that “according to our records all documents are in order.

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Mr Ali discloses that his firm not only pays huge taxes and rates to the national and county governments but also caters for the welfare of the squatters on the property.

“We are willing to give them some land with titles within out parcels,” he says adding that from his records only 311 families on the property are genuine squatters. Local leaders dispute this figure saying it is a gross underestimation.

He claims some “professional squatters” pop up expecting free land and compensation.

Ali says that besides offering free water, medical services and employment his firm also provides scholarships and other social amenities to residents.

But these assurances ring hollow in the mind of Karisa and local leaders who say salt firms are only bent on profiteering. Kingi points to a 2006 report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights which documented rights violations of residents by salt firms in Magarini.

“They claim they were allocated land by the national government but why did the government ignore residents who were living in this land? This is the original sin that must be addressed,” he adds.

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Haulage firms warned after lorries found to cheat emissions tests in crackdown

One in 13 lorries examined as part of a Government crackdown on air quality violations were fitted with cheat devices.

The most common trick is to use an emulator which stops a lorry’s emissions control system from functioning, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) said.

Drivers could face having their vehicles taken off the road

Drivers could face having their vehicles taken off the road

They are fitted by u nscrupulous drivers and businesses to cut the cost of maintenance and repairs.

DVSA examiners found devices fitted on 293 out of 3,735 lorries in the first four months after new checks were introduced in August last year.

There were 151 registered in Britain, 60 from Northern Ireland and 82 from outside the UK.

Drivers or operators of vehicles caught out have to remove the devices within 10 days or face a £300 fine and having the vehicle taken off the road.

Firms also risk losing their licence to operate a haulage business.

Volkswagen sparked outrage in September 2015 when it was found to have fitted defeat device software to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.

This allowed the manufacturer to cheat tests for nitrogen oxide pollutants .

Air pollution causes an estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK and is linked to health problems from childhood illnesses to heart disease and even dementia.

DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said the agency’s priority is to protect the public from unsafe drivers and vehicles.

” We are committed to taking dangerous lorries off Britain’s roads,” he said.

“Stopping emissions fraud is a vital part of that.

“Anyone who flouts the law is putting the quality of our air and the health of vulnerable people at risk. We won’t hesitate to take action.”

Natalie Chapman, a policy chief at the Freight Transport Association, said any drivers caught trying to cheat air quality standards should be ” punished to the full letter of the law”.

She went on: ” A small handful of unscrupulous operators, which DVSA has identified through targeted enforcement, should not be allowed to tarnish the reputation of the wider freight industry, which has made huge strides in reducing emissions in the past few years.”

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